Butternut Squash Cream, Chicken and Kale Pasta Bake

Growing up, I was never a fan of casseroles; they all seemed to taste like a variety of textures in a thick goop.  I can assure you, this is not one of those ;)
In each bite you taste the tender chicken, mushrooms and sweet roasted tomatoes.  The butternut squash cream sauce adds a touch of flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.  It was a hit at my recent book club night!

"The butternut cream sauce envelope this dish to tie
the flavors together!"
Penne pasta
3 chicken breasts, shredded
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 bunch baby kale, ribs removed and chopped (you can also purchase pre-chopped in a bag)
1 butternut squash, roasted
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup whipping cream
10 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded (I prefer cherry tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1.    Cook penne according to package directions.  Drain and toss lightly with a Tbs. of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together.  Set aside.

2.    Cut butternut squash in half, remove seeds and place cut side down in a glass baking dish.  Put 1/2” of water in the bottom of the dish.  Scoop out squash and mash.  Set aside.  Bake squash and chicken (Step 3) at the same time.

3.    Place chicken into a glass baking dish; cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Cool, shred chicken and set aside.

4.    In a large skillet, sauté onions and mushrooms until the onions soften.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute longer.

5.    Add the kale, cover and sauté for about 4-6 minutes; until the kale wilts.  Remove from heat and set aside.

6.    In a deep pot over medium heat melt the butter; add flour, stir to create a roux.

7.    Pour in broth and bring to a low boil.

8.    Reduce heat to simmer; add cream and goat cheese and cook for 5-7 minutes to melt the cheese.  Be sure to stir occasionally.

9.    Add butternut squash, sage, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine well and remove from heat.

10.  Spray the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish with non-stick spray then pour the penne noodles into dish; press them down to form an even base.  Spread the mushroom/kale mixture over the noodles.

11.  Spread the shredded chicken over the mushroom/kale layer.

12.  Pour butternut sauce over the chicken.

13.  Arrange tomatoes evenly over the top of the casserole, then sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the tomatoes.

14.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.  If the top begins to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil. TIP:  Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray and it won’t stick to the cheese.

15.  Serve and enjoy!


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